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Rachel Nichols Joins Showtime After Contentious ESPN Exit


One 12 months after the high-profile canceling of her television show, Rachel Nichols is back.

Showtime Sports announced Friday that Nichols could be joining the premium television network to contribute to its basketball coverage, together with her first appearance coming on the “All of the Smoke” podcast Friday.

For five years, Nichols was the face of ESPN’s N.B.A. coverage, sitting down for interviews with big stars, covering the playoffs and hosting its day by day basketball show, “The Jump.” But she was pulled from the air and her show was canceled last 12 months after The Latest York Times reported on disparaging comments Nichols had made about Maria Taylor, who on the time was her colleague at ESPN.

In a conversation with an adviser to the Los Angeles Lakers star LeBron James that was unknowingly recorded in July 2020, Nichols, who’s white, said that Taylor, who’s Black, had been chosen to host 2020 N.B.A. finals coverage as an alternative of her because ESPN executives were “feeling pressure” on diversity.

Shortly after The Times’s report, Taylor left ESPN for NBC, where she hosts “Football Night in America,” amongst other duties. ESPN replaced “The Jump” with an analogous day by day show called “NBA Today,” which is hosted by Malika Andrews.

On the “All of the Smoke” podcast — which is hosted by the previous N.B.A. players Stephen Jackson and Matt Barnes, who worked with Nichols on “The Jump” — Nichols made her most extensive comments yet on her departure from ESPN, though she revealed little that had not already been said or reported.

Nichols said that the job of hosting N.B.A. finals coverage had been written into her contract with ESPN. But as the corporate was preparing for the unprecedented airing of the remaining of the regular season and the playoffs from a bubble environment near Orlando, Fla., due to coronavirus pandemic, she was asked as an alternative to be a sideline reporter in order that Taylor could host finals studio coverage.

“They stressed it was my selection; they weren’t telling me to do that, since it was in my contract,” Nichols said on the podcast. “But they were putting lots of pressure on me. I used to be being told, ‘Well, you’re not a team player.’ Which any woman in business knows is code, right?”

An ESPN spokesman declined to comment last 12 months when asked whether hosting the finals was in Nichols’s contract. The spokesman declined to comment when asked again Friday. Generally, most ESPN contracts for on-air commentators are what are often called “pay or play” contracts, meaning ESPN has the proper to take anybody off the air for any reason, but the corporate must proceed to pay them.

Nichols was inadvertently recorded from her hotel room near Orlando. A camera in her room was left on after she finished taping for a show, feeding its recording to a server at ESPN’s headquarters in Bristol, Conn. Her conversation got here because the country was roiled by racial justice protests after the police in Minneapolis killed George Floyd, and right after The Times reported that many Black employees at ESPN felt they were harmed by racism at the corporate.

On the recording, the adviser Nichols was chatting with, Adam Mendelsohn, who’s white, said he was “exhausted” by Black Lives Matter and Nichols laughed.

On the podcast Friday, Nichols said she believed that ESPN was asking her to assist fix worker and audience complaints about an absence of diversity in a way they might not have asked a person to do. “Do you’re thinking that ESPN would ever say to Rece Davis: ‘Hey, we wish to offer Maria this chance. You go be the sideline reporter?’” Nichols said, referring to Davis, a white man who hosts “College GameDay.” “They don’t say that to men.”

Nichols added that she attempted to establish a gathering to apologize to Taylor after Taylor learned of her comments but that Taylor wouldn’t meet together with her.

“I feel sorry that any of this touched Maria Taylor,” Nichols said. “She’s a fellow woman within the business. It wasn’t her fault what was occurring.”

Nichols, without naming anyone, said she thought “individuals who had bad feelings” held on to the hotel room recording, then leaked it to the media for “leverage with their very own situations.”

It will not be immediately clear how big of a job Nichols can have at Showtime, which doesn’t have rights to point out N.B.A. games. In keeping with an announcement from Showtime, Nichols will “contribute to multiple programs and projects from Showtime Basketball across multiple platforms.”

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